Cover Story

For psychologists who want to make teaching a priority, community colleges can provide an ideal career option, say members of APA's Psychology Teachers at Community Colleges (PT@CC).

One of the group's founders, Ann Ewing, PhD, has taught at the 27,000-student Mesa Community College in Mesa, Ariz., for more than 20 years. "I've been here my whole career, and I've loved it," she says.

Like many community college professors, she teaches a much heavier course load than most faculty at four-year institutions-15 credits, or five classes each semester.

That teaching can be particularly rewarding, says PT@CC Executive Committee member Donna Killian Duffy, PhD, a psychology professor at Middlesex Community College in Lowell and Bedford, Mass. "Students at community colleges are much more diverse in age and background," than those at four-year schools, she says. "So your capacity to create transformation in lives is much greater."

Research necessarily takes a backseat in these positions, Ewing and Duffy say. Still, some research--particularly classroom-based and teaching--related-is possible. Last year, for instance, Ewing looked at the effectiveness of student response systems, or clickers, in the classroom.

Community college teaching can also be ideal for psychologists who have private practice, consulting or other outside interests, but also want to teach, says Ewing. Her department, for instance, includes 12 full-time faculty but nearly 40 adjunct and part-time positions.

Landing one of those full-time positions, Duffy warns, is not necessarily easy.

"It's competitive to get hired at a community college now," she says. "For the most part, all the new hires have [doctorates]. That wasn't true 10 or 15 years ago."

Psychologists who are interested in community college teaching might consider teaching as an adjunct while completing their doctorates, to get experience and make connections, she suggests.

And what about the bottom line? Across all disciplines in the 2005-2006 academic year, full professors at two-year colleges earned an average salary of $66,099 compared with $77,127 at baccalaureate institutions, $80,322 at master's institutions and $108,404 at doctoral institutions, according to the American Association of University Professors. Assistant professors earned $47,046, $49,446, $53,014 and $62,730 respectively.

-L. Winerman

Community college boom

Of all 11.6 million U.S. undergraduates, 45 percent attend community college. The number of community colleges has grown since 1970.

Year         Community Colleges
1970         909
1980         1,058
1990         1,106
2000         1,155
1970         909

Source: American Association of Community Colleges